MEF Sets 'Carrier Ethernet' Bar

A Metro Ethernet Forum certification program puts a formal stamp on 'carrier-class' Ethernet

April 12, 2005

5 Min Read
MEF Sets 'Carrier Ethernet' Bar

With practically every equipment vendor claiming to deliver "carrier-class" Ethernet, the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) is laying down some rules about what counts and what doesn't.

Today the MEF -- whose membership includes service providers, chip companies, and several large equipment vendors -- introduced its Carrier Ethernet concept and certification program (see MEF Launches Cerification Program). The goal is to formalize the idea of carrier-class Ethernet -- which has been loosely defined as an Ethernet environment that matches the reliability and quality of service (QOS) that carriers have enjoyed with Sonet (Synchronous Optical NETwork) and SDH (Synchronous Digital Hierarchy) and Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) -- and prod equipment vendors into proving their systems make the cut.

Most vendors probably won't have to revamp roadmaps to meet the Carrier Ethernet designation. For one, most of the major Ethernet players are MEF members, including Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR), Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY), Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), and Riverstone Networks Inc. (OTC: RSTN.PK), so the Carrier Ethernet program doesn't come as a surprise to them.

More important, the MEF's Carrier Ethernet draws from standards work, including that of outside groups such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE). So the technology deals with known quantities -- again, no real surprises.

Why do all this if the MEF is just collecting the standards work that's already done?

"We defined this in a way that consensus was built. Before, you had [companies like] Cisco, Atrica, or Alcatel talk about it in bits and pieces. Now we have a broad representation of the industry coming up with a definition," says Nan Chen, president of the MEF and VP of product marketing at Atrica Inc.

What's important is that a formal definition creates consistency, says Eric Puetz, executive director of broadband switching at SBC Communications Inc. (NYSE: SBC). (Directory: {dirlink 5|166}.)

"Talking to vendors, I can't think of one that didn't throw a slide in there saying their equipment was 'carrier-class,' " Puetz says. "Everybody was claiming it, but everybody defined it differently."

The Carrier Ethernet definition encompasses five areas, each touched by multiple standards:

Table 1: Ingredients of Carrier Ethernet

MEF Standards

Other Standards


Hard QOS

TDM Support

Service Management


* Standard not yet ratified by the MEFSource: MEF

Key to the effort will be certification testing, which will give carriers confidence that a particular product really handles carrier Ethernet. Certification also saves carriers the trouble of testing the equipment's carrier-class claims. "If there's one thing marketing tells us, it's that we need to reduce our test cycles," says Puetz, who happens to be chairing the MEF's Carrier Ethernet certification committee.

Iometrix Inc. is the only testing lab approved to certify equipment, and for now, only MEF members will be allowed to submit equipment for certification. The MEF will seek out more testing labs to join Iometrix as certification sites, and the process will be opened up to other companies eventually.

And the certification will matter, at least in SBC's case. "We'll be requesting that in RFPs," Puetz says.

The deadline for the first round of certification applications is June 9. The MEF hopes to name some certified Carrier Ethernet vendors by September, when it holds its Carrier Ethernet World Congress in Berlin.

Ethernet services are catching on with carriers, as Ethernet gives their customers a relatively inexpensive technology that fits comfortably with installed LANs. Light Reading's Ethernet Services Directory so far lists 398 services offered by 223 companies. And a recent report from Heavy Reading, Light Reading's paid research arm, shows most carriers plan to offer Ethernet services despite high customer expectations (see HR Surveys Ethernet SPs and Counting the Cost of Ethernet Services).Infonetics Research Inc.predicts fast growth for the carrier Ethernet market. The firm says sales of carrier Ethernet equipment reached $61 million in 2004, or 2 percent of total metro Ethernet sales, and it expects sales to grow to $2.7 billion, or 35 percent of metro Ethernet sales, in 2008 (see Report: Carrier Ethernet Booming).

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

For more on this topic, check out:

For further education, visit the archives of related Light Reading Webinars:

  • Ethernet Services: A 2005 Preview

  • Ethernet Services: Service Provider Challenges

  • Metro Ethernet Services: What Customers Want

  • Ethernet Services: Technology Trends

  • Ethernet Services: The Economics Behind the Myth

  • Ethernet Service Provisioning & Management

  • AT&T’s Ethernet Roadmap

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like